President of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence Roberta Clarke. -
President of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence Roberta Clarke. -

Advocacy group Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV) president, Roberta Clarke, wants citizens to stop romanticising domestic violence cases which end in death.

She was responding to the killing of three women, so far this year, allegedly at the hands of their male partners.

On Monday, pre-school principal Jezelle Philip, 43, was stabbed several times in front her workplace in Port of Spain by a man who surrendered to police at the Besson Street station.

On the same day, the bodies of 31-year-old Polly-Ann Chuniesingh, her brother Damien, 39, and their uncle Randy were found in a house at Pinto Road, Arima. They had been strangled. Polly-Ann's ex boyfriend is the main suspect in the case and is in police custody.

The latest victim is 28-year-old insurance agent Gabriella Du Barry who was shot dead at her Avocat Village, Fyzabad home on Thursday. A man is assisting police with their investigation.

In a statement, Clarke said her organisation knows why this violence occurs.

"These are not crimes of passion, and neither are they triggered by the grief of unreturned love. These are crimes of power. In abusing women and ending their lives, these men are saying 'Try and do what you want, I go do for you'.”

She said: “Let us stop this grotesque romanticisation of murder of women by men, which reinforces stereotypes and does nothing to prevent these crimes.”

Asked if the cause was due to men feeling powerless, she said an abusive man does not slap his boss or pastor, so why should he vent on his wife?

“At the end, the most powerless person is the dead woman.”

Clarke called for an end the “offensive and defensive refrain” that men are also violated.

Asked if men can be victims of domestic violence (such as financial, emotional or physical abuse), she told Newsday, “Of course he can, but that is not really the phenomenon. We have no history of women killing men in their home.”

She said, while women may say hurtful things and bad women do exist, the present concern on domestic violence was for individuals who feel fearful.

Asking what the police had done when Chuniesingh had reported threats, Clarke in her statement urged the police to adopt a mandatory arrest policy if a perpetrator has committed an arrestable offence. She said he should be held for a cooling off period, pending a risk assessment by social services as to whether he is likely to do harm.

“Writing up a domestic violence report in a police register and then doing nothing else, is exactly that, doing nothing. Too often they are not acting quickly enough.”

Newsday asked if a spiteful woman might abuse such a provision to lock up a man. Clarke replied, a lock up should happen "only if it crosses a certain hurdle or threshold.

“The majority of women do not want the police to arrest or charge, but to just talk to him.”

Clarke urged other initiatives by the State, including the courts.

She urged the State to support a prevention and response strategy. “Shelters are inadequately funded or not funded at all.”

Having counselled 600 men, women and children in 2019, she said her group must constantly raise funds from private citizens and companies to stay open.

She said marches against domestic violence will be held next Friday at locations to be announced.

Rhondall Feeles, Single Fathers’ Association head, told Newsday TT needs “preventative, not reactive” measures to address the issue.

He urged a national programme to help men and women talk to each other, including group counselling where older couples could share experiences. Feeles said those talks must include topics such as adultery, emasculation, emotional management and financial management.

He said programmes must include men, women and children. “You can’t use a segregated solution.”

He hoped his group’s previous programme, In This Together, done with the community police, could be rolled out across TT. “You need help out of a relationship.”



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